If you’re a naturalist, you believe there is one, natural world. There is not an extra, supernatural world hiding cleverly behind the natural world. There’s just this world, the one we live in.
You don’t have to be a philosopher or scientist to be a naturalist. You’re probably a naturalist because you noticed that supernatural claims are usually based on subjective experiences and special thinking. (“My visions and miracles are genuine, and contradictory supernatural visions and miracles are hoaxes, or else the work of demons.”) Or else supernatural claims come from an ancient book written by people who didn’t know the earth went around the sun.
Not wanting to believe falsehoods, you decided to be more careful with your beliefs than that. You demand evidence for your beliefs. And since you haven’t seen any evidence for a supernatural world, you only believe in the natural one.
We might not always like what science tells us about ourselves and our place in the universe, but that’s the price of being responsible about how we form our beliefs.
Science tells us we are not special. We are part of this natural world just like chimpanzees and grass. Just as there is no big magical God “out there,” there is no tiny magical you “in there.” You are just atoms and neurons and tissue and water and bacteria, all of which respond to natural laws.
Well, you’re not “just” those things. A beautiful sunset is just sunlight being filtered through air, but it is also a beautiful sunset. And you may be just atoms and neurons, but you are also a person, a person who loves and laughs, who can do what he desires, who does good and evil, who discovers things and appreciates beauty and dreams dreams.
The naturalist celebrates that nature is enough. Nature is all we need to secure freedom, reason, morality, happiness, and purpose. Tom Clark writes:1
Indeed, the realization that we are fully natural creatures has profoundly positive effects, increasing our sense of connection to the world and others, fostering tolerance, compassion and humility, and giving us greater control over our circumstances… So we can justly call it worldview naturalism: an overarching cognitive, ethical and existential framework that serves the same function as supernatural worldviews, but without trafficking in illusions. By staying true to science, our most reliable means of representing reality, naturalists find themselves at home in the cosmos, astonished at the sheer scope and complexity of the natural world, and grateful for the chance to participate in the grand project of nature coming to know herself.